MTN, South Africa’s mobile telecom giant, has agreed on a three-year $5 million sponsorship deal with the Cameroon Professional Football League (LFPC).
According to the agreement signed in Yaoundé, MTN Cameroon will invest $1.7 million in the local soccer annually for the next three years.
MTN Cameroon CEO Philisiwe Sibiya, who signed the deal on behalf of the firm, said the company’s wish was to see Cameroon regain the dynamism and influence once associated with its football.
The five times continental champions are preparing to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
“The agreement that we are executing today is borne of our collective ambition to raise the performance bar of local football to the level of that of the Indomitable Lions; kings of Africa, our pride,” said Sibiya.
She said a lion’s share of the telcom firm’s direct contribution would be shared among the 36 clubs of Cameroon’s top flight championships; the Elite One and Two; which will be renamed MTN Elite One and MTN Elite Two clubs.
Despite the abundance of talent, Cameroon football was hampered by economic hardship, observers say.
The launch of the on-going 2016/2017 football season, for instance, witnessed repeated postponements, largely due to logistics and financial deficiency.
Apart from bigger clubs like Coton Sport of Garoua, many Cameroonian clubs depended largely on members’ private contributions with players’ salaries often in a crisis.
LFPC President Pierre Semengue, who inked the deal on behalf of the beneficiary, said the gesture would galvanise and propel the league to greater heights.
The LFPC president said the cash would be used to raise the standards of living of local soccer players “through the disbursement of handsome salaries” which he believed would “significantly curb” the frightening wave of exodus of young talents in search of greener pastures abroad.
He urged other companies to follow MTN’s example and support soccer in the country.
The firm sponsored Cameroon’s top flight leagues from 2002, but backed out in 2013 and since then, the national divisions One and Two championships have been limping due to lack of sponsorship.
Until the return of MTN, the limping league had only stayed afloat, thanks to meagre state support.
Football legends like Joseph Antoine Bell and Rigobert Song were also present at the ceremony.
Reacting to the deal, Philisiwe SIBIYA @Phili_Sibiya tweeted: “Yello Football!! MTN is back!! Exciting times ahead.”
Aoundé C’Koment ! @Yaounde_CKoment also tweeted and said: “Today MTN is taking back his place in the Cameroonian football family”